Kim Jong-il, North Korean leader, dies

Kim Jong-il, the "dear leader" still venerated by many in North Korea but reviled abroad, has died aged 69, state media announced on Monday morning. The official KCNA news agency described his young son and heir

Kim Jong-il, the “dear leader” still venerated by many in North Korea but reviled abroad, has died aged 69, state media announced on Monday morning.

The official KCNA news agency described his young son and heir apparent as “the great successor”, urging the nation, people and military to rally behind and “faithfully revere” Kim Jong-un.

The North Korean leader suffered a heart attack on Saturday due to physical and mental over-work, KCNA reported. He was on his train, travelling to offer “field guidance” to workers, when he died.

Kim had recovered from a reported stroke in 2008, and Monday’s announcement was unexpected. But he had already begun grooming Kim Jong-un to take control of the “hermit state”, appointing him a general last year and giving him several high profile roles.

Experts say there is increasing domestic cynicism about the regime, which has proved incapable of meeting basic economic needs while exerting rigid control. Collective punishment has left an estimated 200,000 people in prison camps and last year the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea described the country’s situation as “sui generis”, adding: “Simply put, there are many instances of human rights violations which are both harrowing and horrific.”

But people in the streets of Pyongyang burst into tears as they learnt of Kim’s death, Associated Press reported. At a North Korean restaurant in Beijing, staff wept hysterically when told what had happened.

“It is the biggest loss for the party … and it is our people and nation’s biggest sadness,” a tearful anchorwoman clad in black Korean traditional dress told viewers as she announced Kim’s death.

She urged the nation to “change our sadness to strength and overcome our difficulties”.

The death will also be felt far beyond North Korea’s 24 million population. The country has long been a source of international concern because of its nuclear and missiles programmes and there will be widespread anxiety about potential instability and the implications of the change in leadership.

Seoul’s Yonhap news agency said South Korean military leaders had declared an emergency alert following Kim’s death. A spokesman for Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda said he had set up a crisis management team on North Korea, while in the US the White House said Barack Obama was monitoring reports of the death.

“We remain committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies,” a spokesman added.

While there were some suggestions the new leader might sabre-rattle in the region to help establish himself, Dr Leonid Petrov of the University of Sydney argued that Pyongyang was likely to use the transition as an opportunity to reach out to the international community.

“They will try to use it to resume negotiations with the US, saying there is a new leader so why not go and talk,” he predicted.

Kim Jong-un’s name headed the long list of officials on the funeral committee, indicating he will lead it. KCNA said the funeral will take place in Pyongyang on 28 December, with the mourning period lasting until 29 December.

But there have long been doubts about how easy it will be for the younger man – thought to be in his late 20s – to continue the Communist dynasty founded by his grandfather Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994.

“I think the North has done quite a bit to accelerate the succession process so I think at least in the short term they will coalesce around the next generation of leadership and watch and see whether his son will be able to consolidate power. But there will be a lot of uncertainty ahead,” said Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group.

Chung Young-tae, of the Korea Institute of National Unification, told Reuters: “Any prospect for a strong and prosperous country is now gone. Kim Jong-un is not yet the official heir, but the regime will move in the direction of Kim Jong-un taking centre stage.

“There is a big possibility that a power struggle may happen. It’s likely the military will support Kim Jong-un. Right now there will be control wielded over the people to keep them from descending into chaos in this tumultuous time.”

KCNA said that Kim Jong-il had been receiving treatment for heart disease for a long time. He suffered a major heart attack on Saturday due to “great mental and physical strain caused by his uninterrupted field guidance tour for the building of a thriving nation” while travelling on his train.

“Every possible first-aid measure was taken immediately but he passed away at 08:30,” it said, adding that an autopsy had confirmed the diagnosis.

The North Korean leader’s last public sighting was reported by North Korea’s state news agency on Thursday. He reportedly visited a supermarket and music centre, accompanied by his son.

The news is likely to be a particular shock in North Korea – where Kim has been revered as much as he has been vilified by the outside world – because his death comes days before the beginning of 2012. The regime has long promoted next year at the point at which the country would achieve development and prosperity.

For years it has been struggling with food shortages and an economy in crisis.
“It is an extremely convenient time for the North Korean leadership: they don’t need to honour the promise that North Korea will become a strong, powerful and prosperous state,” said Petrov, an expert on the country at the University of Sydney.

“The population will be required to work hard for long hours with very few celebrations of Kim Il-sung’s centenary.

“North Korea is going to have a three-year mourning period during which Jong-un will be consolidated as leader – exactly as happened [with his father] when Kim Il-sung died.

He added that while many citizens in North Korea would be genuinely distraught at the news, “it will not be as dramatic as it was in 1994 when Kim Il-sung died. That was real trauma, exacerbated by the famine … political cynicism is growing.”

The Guardian

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26 COMMENTS
  • Abnet Tesfai December 19, 2011

    congratulations dictator Issayas
    now Eritrean dictator became #1 dictator. As a mad dog Issayas wants to be the first no body should be in front of him specially in ranking whether it is for negative or positive.
    His elder brother.. (the ex-first dictator) passed away after devastating his country.
    for common understating let us see their similarities.
    1. kim jong 2 used to deprive all human rights to his own people, hunger, political persecution…. same as our dictator. the Koreans were fleeing their country via china to other countries. we used Sudan and Ethiopia to flee our country.
    2. both of them advocate militarism. Issayas train Eritreans and neighboring people military in sawa to disturb the east africa. kim was building nuclear to threaten south Korea.
    3. Issayas used to point his finger to America and Weyane for his internal crises and faults. kim insulted south Korea and America
    4. both advocated self-reliance to hide themselves from the external political economical and cultural influences and to deceive their people and the international community.
    these similarities are few of the many.
    source of data associated press.

  • kozami December 19, 2011

    As they say desperate affairs require desperate measures! Looking at the list of supposedly ‘worst dictators’ one can’t help but notice the list to choose from had already been compiled (by the hidden dictator!). The list it self has only leaders that are at odds with the west for one reason or another. I wonder whether Libya, Egypt and Tunisia (leave others) would have been on the list given that we now have hindsight. But then again the desperate sell out opposition has something to brag about.

    • Huluf December 19, 2011

      Kozami,

      Stop lying they have been on the list as well.

  • Abnet Tesfai December 19, 2011

    kozami philistine
    you are failed in all aspects. you are poor in your altitude, you are not rhetoric. and you are not persuasive in the way you write.
    wake up. try to feel the Eritreans fate in the Mediterranean sea and the Sinai desert. their mothers are under deep sorrow. but you are still fawning to the insane dictator like a lost dog when the Eritrean people is suffering the greater pain.

    • Ahmed saleh December 19, 2011

      You can not help your self only to get frustrated when you confront people who choose
      oppressors on the price of their own people sufferings.

  • kozami December 19, 2011

    Abnet and ahmed

    You portray the ghastly reputation of a chicken’s activity after its head had been removed. Your evil intentions of praying for economic sanction on Eritrea so that innocent Eritreans would be placed at the sacrificial altar of your selfish malevolence had come to pass. Your hasty retreat to woyane’s blouse Awassa didn’t impress your handlers to the least. It ended in making a spectacle of back stabbing and sold for good character. Even the family of the so called detained journalists have come out to denounce you as cheap sellouts. Do not bother to scavenge trash from every anonymous peddlers, and oh…leave the victims of tragic ordeals alone. You are the last people to be called upon for any credible enterprise. Eritreans at home and abroad have frowned you as upon as a disease and their actions speak louder than any cheap rattle you can muster. Your handlers would like to see credible head count numbers from you else they would be soon spatting you out as a overused chewing gum. If Eritrea needs to make mends in its ways, you will be as good as the dead to be consulted with.

    • Huluf December 19, 2011

      Kozami,

      What you miss and err you assume the people who are refusing to bow to your PIA, DIA of Eritrea. It is the tough and realistic period that is spurring people in the direction of truth. Joining a dance is easier than climbing a mountain. The struggle of Ertrea started with few who have character of honesty and integrity. What you see , few with character accept to go to jaill than submit to a dictator, few stand on the public and speak the truth. You insinuate as if the people of Eritrea are so happy with this regime whether in or out. If that was the case they would not be financing their brethern and sistern with hard earned dollars/euro to get them across such horrid risks. If that was the case the people in Eritrea would not be ignoring TV Eri and the Higdef mendef(not hizbawi genar) and listen to radio like Radio Erena(Poor thing you probably do not know because you are so detached and just dissolving in Eri TV. The clock is ticking …the harrowing experieince the youth had faced is the culmination of this regime’s end. Please listen to the new song release “TEZAREB”…..It is going to be the hottest release soon in Eritrean homes. If you missed it: here it is
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HpVKhrORsQc#t=50s

      • kozami December 19, 2011

        Huluf

        I have followed the hyperlink you forwarded, well IMO a very amateurish stab in the dark at the art of political satire! I must admit the song “Tezareb” couldn’t be of a better fit for you until you grow big enough balls to tell woyane to abide by int’l ruling. Yes, until you grow strong enough manly shoulders to carry Eritrea’s inherent problems in one side and its man made problems on the other. Standing tall on both legs of character and integrity. But ’till then, “ewe tezareb d’A… abey keytbetsih kinyo zereba” By the way I haven’t said there are no problems in Eritrea, since you yourself, evidently, happen to be one of those problems.

        • Huluf December 19, 2011

          Kozami,
          I could hire you for my lawyer. Sefay Zereba Ikkha. Pay attention the singer has survived the harrow he is narrating through lyrics and strumming the kirar of his anguish. You do not seem to understand andcould never dream to get it because you see there is some early elite advantages that has savoured your from many havoc Eritrean yout have seen since the mid 70s.,and do not blame the messenger, I am just sharing with you what people of Eritrea now tune to. This radio actually is free of any oppossiton but the voice of the youth globally. You should listen how they dialogue from Dubai, Sudan, Uganda…Eritrea. People to people have begun to talk. Forget DIA even those in diaspora poleticians. Looking at the audacity of your literature you share Sofia’s destiny. Let me take a stub at it. You are from a family early elite of Eritrea that exploited Ethiopia’s privleages to professional Eritreans, first to dash out of Eritrea during the war of freedom. Mom and dad exploited western life style and credit to them kept you natiionalistic but blinded by next privileage that Higdefites cleverly targeted those outsiders knowing the capacity of opportunism by now is culturally emeded in your type. Otherwise if you truly dig and feel member of your extendedfamily, you would understand.
          You are yet to respond as to why a president would deny that a soccer team went missing from a host country and “he had no idea” Either he is a liar or he has no clue. Scary!!

        • Huluf December 19, 2011

          Kozami,

          Eritrean man made problems are squarely by this evil dictator president. We had overcome “Against all ODDs” without “Never kneel down” to the man made problems. But now those that stumped these books in admiraiton of our struggle coining it the “Hope of Africa” those friends of Eritrea , we have shamelessly baptised them as CIAs…(Dan Connell, many others)If professor Holwes – a man we dedicated an establishement if he awoke from his death would be in horror and protest – Tezerab, mtezarebe…and you would waste no time to claim the CIA raised him for his grave. It is no secret this dictator can only hide in wars. That was the crack of this dictator andthe rest of Eritras leadership(G-15) . Kozami wake up!!! Even South Sudan declared him trouble.
          Tezerab, dahdahayo! Iwo kizarab Iye and that scares many like you. Also you Tezrab…I welcome to debate you and have no reason to doubt your Eritreaness!

          • Alex December 19, 2011

            Kozami
            Cheap sold outs are people like you who want Eritreans to suffer and perish. You only care
            to save the brutal regime, I noticed you do not have a desire to share the pain of those poor
            people. Shame on you to talk of those victims case on a minor level position, it is a big deal.
            And the scar will remain in us for life.

    • Abnet Tesfai December 20, 2011

      kozami
      you repeated as your dictator to point your internal crises to external forces like weyane and America who gives you no credit.
      Just try to make the country where peace and Justis prevail. you and other foolish fawners stayed to laud the dictator for his jailing veteran fighters, chasing all Eritrean youth to exile, for making the country the poorest in world, for his chasing all business men and construction contractors. These were done to keep himself safe and his presidency everlasting as the expense of the Eritrean people futurity. You and other foolish Eritreans are the dictator’s instrumental.

      • Alex December 20, 2011

        He is one of those idiots who say stupid comments before he thinks.
        We the young generation sustained their cruelty,they are worst than
        Dergi of Ethiopia. You are only putting salt to my injury and I do not
        expect your sympathy, who knows you may be one of them who has
        Eritrean blood on your hand. Your turn is getting closer you loser.

  • The Bee December 20, 2011

    The way things are going in the world Dictatorship will be a thing of the past. One by one dictators will disappear. The young new leader probably will try to assert himself to become like his father, but it won’t be long before he collapses. Dictatorship is a failed system and everyone should work against it.

    • Huluf December 21, 2011

      The Bee,
      Technology has become their enemy number 1 where their lies are exposed in seconds and they have no power to information however an island they create be it North Korea, Eritrea, Libya etc.

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